Letter of the Bishops
• of Belgium
Bishops of Germany
Bavaria and Austria- Hungary
THE NATION PRESS, Inc.. 20 Vesey Street, New York
Letter of the Bishops
Bishops of Germany
Bavaria and Austria-Hungary
Copyrieht, 1916, by
The NewiYork Evetiine Post Co.
A Committee of French Catholics pubHshed "La Guerre Allemande
et le Cathohcisme." A German Committee pubhshed an answer: "Der
Deutsche Krieg under der Katholizismus. Deutsche Abwehr Franzo-
A Committee of "German-American CathoHcs" saw fit to send an
EngHsh translation of the German reply to all the Catholic clergymen
of the United States, giving as their reason for so doing "the old juridical
principle: Audiatur et altera pars." Whilst the answer of the German
Catholics is presented as a reply to the French Catholics, the main parts
of it are attacks against Belgium. For that reason it is only proper that
the Belgian side also be heard.
The French Committee has several Cardinals, Archbishops and Bish-
ops among its members. The German Committee decided not to solicit
the membership of German Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops because
"purely political aims and polemics regarding Catholicism and the World
War are irreconcilable with the dignity and tasks of the episcopal pas-
torate." The Belgian Bishops personally and under their own exclusive
responsibility took up the defense of their country and gave their reasons
for so doing. Whilst they emphatically deny the charges brought against
Belgium they demand a fair and impartial investigation. In the letter
of the Belgian Bishops you, as well as all who have read it, will admire
their manly courage in denouncing injustice, their calm protestation of
innocence and their logical and eloquent demand for a fair investigation
and adequate reparation.
The Belgian Bishops, writing in Belgium, under German rule, were
not in possession of all the documents published in Germany. Neither
did they know all that happened in Germany. They ignored the senti-
ment which ran very high among German Catholics on account of the
accusations against Belgian priests and religious. The latter were con-
stantly accused in Germany of having excited the civil population and
even of having led the snipers and set them the example. German Cath-
olics decided to investigate these charges against the Belgian clergy.
Among several others, one of their organizations, the "Pax-Informa-
tionen" of Munich, which is directed by German priests, made investiga-
tions with the assistance of the German military authorities. The result
of these investigations appeared in several Catholic German papers,
among others in the "Koelnische Volkszeitung" of Cologne, of Septem-
ber 20. October 2 and 28, November 10 and 27, December 31,
1914. These investigacions show that the accusations against the
Belgian clergy published by the German press and contained in
a proclamation of the Kaiser posted in Belgium in September, 1914,
as well as in the Kaiser's telegram to the President of the United States,
were made without any foundation, according to formal declarations of
German military authorities and German Doctors and were solemnly
retracted under oath by the very soldiers who had pretended to have
been witnesses of them and had taken part in bloody reprisals against
Belgian priests. A German Jesuit, Father B. Duhr, one of the directors
of the "Pax-Informationen," and whose name is of great authority in
Germany, shows in his book, printed by Manz at Munich, 1915, that
these investigations concluded in favor of the Belgian clergy.
Catholic Belgium has always given abundant proof of its sincere
devotion to the Holy Father, who in turn has never ceased to manifest
his love for Belgium. At this very moment the Delegate Apostolic at
Washington, Archbishop Bonzano, in the name of the Holy Father,
addresses an appeal to the American Bishops in favor of those who
have suffered most in the present war, especially the Belgians, the Poles
and the Ruthenians. In this appeal a special homage is rendered to
Belgium as follows :
"All these have deserved well of the Church in the past; for all have
kept the faith in spite of many persecutions leveled against them. Belgium
especially has rendered splendid service to the cause of religion both by
its generosity towards all the good works carried on by the Church, such
as the Propagation of the Faith, and also by its renowned educational
Institutions, so useful even to the clergy of this country. For these
reasons that little nation is particularly dear to the heart of the Vicar
"You know how it would please the Holy Father to be able to assist
them in this their hour of dire distress, and how grateful it would be to
them to receive help from the Representative of Christ."
Rt. Rev. Gust AVE Depreitere, V.G., Enid, Okla.
Rt. Rev. P. J. Stockman, Hollywood, Cal.
Very Rev. J. B. Bogaerts, New Orleans, La.
Very Rev. A. M. Urban de Hasque, D.D., Oklahoma
Very Rev. Remy Lafort, D.D., Peekskill, N. Y.
Rev. J. J. Burrick, Troy, N. Y.
Rev. M. JoDOCY, Marquette, Mich.
Rev. Hy Mussely, New Bedford, Mass.
Rev. A. A. Notebaert, Rochester, N. Y.
Rev. O. A. Nys, New York City, N. Y.
Rev. C. Stevens, Ticonderoga, N. Y.
Rev. J. F. Stillemans, New York City, N. Y.
Rev. C. Van der Donckt, Pocatello, Idaho,
Letters of the Bishop of Belgium to the Bishops
of Germany, Bavaria and Austria-Hungary.
November the 24th, 1915.
To Their Eminences the Cardinals and Their Lordships the Bishops of
Germany, Bavaria and Austria-Hungary :
As Cathohc Bishops, you, the Bishops of Germany on the one hand
and we, the Bishops of Belgium, France, and England on the other, have
been giving for a year an unsettling example to the world.
Scarcely had the German armies trodden the soil of our country than
the rumor was spread among you that our civil population was taking part
in military operations ; that the women of Vise and Liege were putting out
your soldiers' eyes ; that the populace in Antwerp and Brussels had sacked
the property of expelled Germans.
FIRST GERMAN ACCUSATIONS.
In the first days of August (1914) Dom Ildefonds Herwegen, abbot
of Maria Laach, sent to the Cardinal Archbishop of Malines a telegram
in which he begged him, for the love of God, to protect German soldiers
against the tortures which our countrymen were supposed to be inflict-
ing on them.
Now it was notorious that our Government had taken useful measures
so that every citizen might be instructed in the laws of war; in each
commune, the arms of the inhabitants had to be deposited in the com-
munal house; by posters, the population was warned that only citizens
regularly enrolled under the flag were authorized to bear arms ; and the
clergy, anxious to aid the state in its mission, had spread, by word of
mouth, by parish bulletins, by posters on church doors, the instructions
given by its Government.
We were accustomed for a century to the rule of peace, and we had
no idea that any one, in good faith, could attribute to us violent instincts.
We were strong in our right and in the sincerity of our peaceful inten-
tions ; and we answered calumnies about "free shooters" and "eyes put
out" with a shrug of the shoulders, since we were persuaded that the
truth would be known, without delay, of itself.
The clergy and episcopate of Belgium had personal relations with
numerous priests, members of religious communities, and bishops of
Germany and Austria; the Eucharistic Congresses of 1909 at Cologne
and 1912 at Vienna had given them the opportunity of nearer acquaint-
ance and mutual appreciation. So we felt assured that Catholics of the
nations at war with our own would not judge us lightly; and, without
troubling himself much about the contents of Dom Ildefonds's telegram,
the Cardinal of Malines limited his reply to an invitation to preach
gentleness together with us — for, he added, "we are told that German
troops are shooting innocent Belgian priests."
From the very first days of August crimes had been committed, at
Battice, Vise, Berneau, Herve, and elsewhere, but we were hoping that
they would remain isolated deeds, and, knowing the very high relations
which Dom Ildefonds had, we put great confidence in the following dec-
laration which he sent us on the 11th of August:
I am informed, at first hand, that formal orders have been given to German
soldiers by the military authorities to spare the innocent. As to the very deplorable
fact that even priests have lost their lives, I allow myself to bring to your
Eminence's attention that, within these last days, the dress of priests and monks has
become the object of suspicions and scandal, since French spies have used the
ecclesiastical costume, and even that of religious communities, to disguise their
Meanwhile, the acts of hostility toward innocent populations went on.
FIRST PROTESTATIONS OF THE BISHOPS OF LIEGE AND NAMUR.
On the 18th of August, 1914, the Bishop of Liege wrote to the Com-
manding Officer, Major Bayer, Governor of the city of Liege:
One after the other, several villages have been destroyed ; notable persons,
among whom were parish priests, have been shot ; others have been arrested, and
all have protested their innocence. I know the priests of my diocese; I cannot
believe that a single one of them would have made himself guilty of acts of
hostility toward the German soldiers. I have visited several ambulances, and I
have seen German soldiers cared for in them with the same zeal as Belgians. This
they themselves acknowledge.
[The entire text of the letter of the Bishop of Liege is appended hereto
(Annex 1). His protest was renewed on the 21st of August to Gen.
Kolewe, who had become Military Governor of Liege; and again, on the
29th of August, to His Excellency Baron von der Goltz, Governor-
General of the occupied provinces of Belgium, who was lodging at that
time in the Bishop's palace at Liege.]
This letter remained unanswered.
In the beginning of September, the Emperor of Germany covered with
his authority the calumnious accusations of which our innocent popula-
tions were the object. He sent to Mr. Wilson, President of the United
States, this telegram, which, so far as we know, has not hitherto been
The Belgian Government has publicly encouraged the civil population to take
part in this war, which it had been preparing carefully for a long time. The
cruelties committed during the course of this guerrilla war, by women and even
by priests, on doctors and nurses have been such that my generals have finally been
obhged to have recourse to the mos*- rigorous methods to chastise the guilty and to
prevent the sanguinar}^ population continuing its abominable criminal and odious
deeds. Several villages and even the city of Louvain have had to be demolished
(excepting the very beautiful H6tel-de-Ville) in the interest of our defence, and
for the protection of my troops. My heart bleeds when I see that such measures
have been made inevitable and when I think of the numberless innocent people who
have lost home and goods as a consequence of those criminal deeds.
This telegram was posted up in Belgium, by order of the German
Government, on the 11th of September. The very next day, 12th of
September, the Bishop of Namur demanded to be received by the Mili-
tary Governor of Namur, and protested against the reputation which his
Majesty the Emperor sought to give to the Belgian clergy; he affirmed
the innocence of all the members of the clergy who had been shot or
maltreated, and declared that he was ready himself to publish any
culpable deeds which might be proved.
The offer of the Bishop of Namur was not accepted, and no answer
was made to his protest.
FALSEHOODS OF THE IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT.
Thus calumny was able to pursue its course freely. The German press
encouraged it. The organ of the Catholic Centre rivalled the Lutheran
press ; and the day when thousands of our fellow countrymen, ecclesias-
tics and laymen, of Vise, Aerschot, Wessemael, Herent, Louvain, and
numerous other places, all as innocent of acts of war or cruelty as you
and we, were taken off as prisoners and passed through the railway sta-
tions of Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne, and, for mortal hours, were given
over as a show to the unwholesome curiosity of the Rhenish metropolis,
they had the grief to know that their Catholic brethren vomited over
them just as many insults as did the Lutherans of Celle, Soltau, or
Not one voice was lifted up in Germany to take the defence of the
The legend which was transforming innocent into guilty persons and
crime into an act of justice thus became accredited, and on May 10, 1915,
the "White Book" — an official organ of the German Empire — dared to
adopt it on its own account, and to circulate in neutral countries these
odious and cowardly falsehoods:
There is no doubt that German wounded have been stripped and put to death,
yes, and frightfully mutilated by the Belgian population, and that even women and
young girls have taken part in such abominations. Wounded soldiers have had
their eyes put out, their ears, nose, fingers, and sexual organs cut off, or their
bowels opened ; in other cases, German soldiers have been poisoned, hanged to
trees, have had boiling liquid poured over them, and been sometimes burned, so
that they have endured death in atrocious pain. Such bestial proceedings of the
population not only violate obligations expressly formulated by the Geneva Con-
vention concerning the attention and care due to the wounded of an enemy army,
but they are contrary to the fundamental principles of the laws of war and hu-
Put yourselves for a moment in our place, dear brethren in the faith
We knozv that these shameless accusations of the Imperial Govern-
ment are, from one end to the other, calumnies — we know it and we
Now, your Government, to justify these calumnies, invokes testimony
that has not been verified by any contradictory examination whatever.
Is it not your duty, not only in charity, but in strict justice, to enlighten
yourselves, to enlighten the faithful of your flocks, and to furnish us
with the occasion to establish judicially our innocence?
You owed us this satisfaction in the name of Catholic charity which
dominates national conflicts. You owe it to us — to-day — in strict justice,
because a committee, covered by at least your tacit approbation, and com-
posed of all that is most distinguished in politics and science and religion
in Germany, has undertaken the patronage of the official accusations
and confided to the pen of a Catholic priest. Prof. A. J. Rosenberg, of
Paderborn, the task of condensing them in a book entitled, "The Lying
Accusations of French Catholics against Germany," and has thus put
on the back of Catholic Germany the responsibility of the active and
public propagation of the calumny against the Belgian people.
When the French book, to which German Catholics oppose their own,
saw the Hght, their Eminences Cardinal von Hartmann, archbishop of
Cologne, and Cardinal von Bettinger, archbishop of Munich, felt it neces-
sary to address to their Emperor a telegram in these words :
Revolting at the defamation of the German Fatherland and its glorious army
contained in the book, "The German War and Catholicism," we have the heartfelt
need of expressing our sorrowful indignation to your Majesty in the name of the
whole German episcopate. We shall not fail to lift up our complaint even to the
supreme head of the Church.
BELGIAN BISHOPS DEMAND AN INVESTIGATION.
Very well. Most Reverend Eminences, Venerated Colleagues of the
German episcopate, in our turn, we archbishops and bishops of Belgium
— revolting at the calumnies against our Belgian country and its glorious
army, which are contained in the White Book of the Empire and repro-
duced in the German Catholics' answer to the work published by French
Catholics — we feel the need of expressing to our King, to our Govern-
ment, to our army, to our country, our sorrowful indignation.
And that our protest may not run counter to yours, without useful
effect, we ask you to be willing to aid us to institute a tribunal of inquiry
with evidence and counter-evidence. In the name of your officiality, you
will appoint as many members as you desire, and as it pleases you to
choose; we will appoint as many more, three for example, on each side.
And we will ask together that the episcopate of a neutral state — Holland,
Spain, Switzerland, or the United States — appoint for us a "superarbiter"
who will preside at the operations of the tribunal.
You have taken your complaints to the Sovereign Head of the Church.
It is not just that he should hear only your voice.
You will have the loyalty to aid us to make our voice heard also.
We have — you and we — an identical duty, to put before His Holiness
tried documents on which he may be able to base his judgment.
THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT HAS ALWAYS REFUSED A SERIOUS
You are not ignorant of the efforts we have made, one after another,
to obtain from the Power which occupies Belgium the constitution of a
tribunal of investigation.
The Cardinal of Malines, on two occasions, in writing — January 24,
1915, and February 10, 1915, and the Bishop of Namur, by a letter
addressed to the Military Governor of his province, April 12, 1915, both
solicited the formation of a tribunal to be composed of German and
Belgian arbiters in equal number and to be presided over by a delegate
from a neutral state.
Our efforts met with an obstinate refusal.
Yet the German authority was desirous to institute investigations.
But it wished them to be one-sided — that is, without any judicial value.
After it had refused the investigation demanded by the Cardinal of
Malines, the German authorities went into different localities where
priests had been shot and peaceful citizens massacred or made prisoners,
and there — on the depositions of a few witnesses taken haphazard or
selected discreetly, sometimes in presence of a local authority who was
ignorant of the German language and thus found himself forced to
accept and sign blindly the minutes made — it believed itself authorized
to come to conclusions which were afterwards to be presented to the
public as results of cross-examination.
The German investigation was carried out, in November, 1914, at
Louvain, in such conditions. It is therefore devoid of any authority.
So it is natural that we should turn to you.
The Court of Arbitration, which the Power occupying our country
has refused us, you will grant us — and you will obtain from your Govern-
ment the public declaration that witnesses can be cited by you and by
us to tell all they know, without having to dread reprisals. Before you,
under cover of your moral authority, they will feel themselves more
secure and be encouraged to bear witness to what they have seen and
heard; the world will have faith in the episcopate of our two nations
united; our common control will give authenticity to the witness borne
and will guarantee the fidelity of the report. The investigation thus
carried out will be believed.
THE BISHOPS SOLEMNLY AFFIRM THE INNOCENCE OF THE BEL-
GIAN PEOPLE AND THE CRUELTY OF GERMANY.
We demand this investigation, Eminences and Venerated colleagues,
before all else, to avenge the honor of the Belgian people. Calumnies put
forth by your people and its highest representatives have violated it. And
you know as well as we the adage of human. Christian, Catholic moral
theology: "Without restitution, no pardon" — Non remittitur pectatum,
nisi restituatur ablatum.
Your people, by the organ of its political powers and of its highest
moral authorities, has accused our fellow-citizens of giving themselves
up to atrocities and horrors on wounded German soldiers, and particulars
are given, as above cited, by the White Book and the German Catholics'
manifesto. To all such accusations we oppose a formal denial — and we
demand to give the proofs of the truth of our denial.
On the other hand, to justify the atrocities committed in Belgium by
the German army, the political power, by the very title it gave its White
Book — "Die Volkerrechtwidrige Fiihring des Belgischen Volkskriegs"
("The violation of the law of nations by the war proceedings of the
Belgian people") — and the hundred Catholics who signed the book —
"The German War and Catholicism : German Answer to French Attacks"
— assert that the German army found itself in Belgium in the case of
legitimate defence against a treacherous organization of free-shooters.
M^e affirm that there was nowhere in Belgium any organization of
free-shooters — and ive demand, in the name of our National honor, which
has been calumniated, the right to give proofs of the truth of our
You will call whom you choose before the tribunal of cross-investiga-
tion. We shall invite to appear there all the priests of parishes where
civilians, priests, members of religious communities, or laymen were
massacred or threatened with death to the cry — Man hat geschossen
("Someone has been shooting") — we shall ask all these priests to sign,
if you wish it, their testimony under oath and then — under penalty of
pretending that the whole Belgian clergy is perjured, you will have td
accept and the civilized world will not he able to refuse the conclusions
of this solemn and decisive investigation.
But we add, Eminences and Venerated Colleagues, that you have the
same interest as ourselves in this constitution of a tribunal of honor.
For, relying on our direct experience, we know — and we affirm that
the German army gave itself up in Belgium, in a hundred different places,
to pillage and incendiarism, to imprisoning and massacres and sacrileges
contrary to all justice and to all sentiment of humanity.
This we affirm, in particular, for the communes whose names figure
in our Pastoral letters, and in the two Notes addressed by the Bishops of
Namur and Liege (respectively on the 31st of October and the 1st of
November, 1915), to his Holiness Benedict XV, to his Excellency the
Nuncio of Brussels, and to the Ministers or representatives of neutral
countries at Brussels.
Fifty innocent priests, thousands of innocent faithful, were put to
death ; hundreds of others, whose lives have been preserved by circum-
stances independent of their persecutors' will, were put in danger of
death; thousands of innocent people were made prisoners without trial,
many of them underwent months of detention, and, when they were
released, the rnost minute questionings to which they had been subjected
liad brought out against them no evidence of guilt.
These crimes cry to heaven for vengeance.
If, when we formulate these denunciations, we calumniate the German
army; or if the military authority had just reasons to order or permit
these acts, which we call criminal, it belongs to the honor and to the
national interest of Germany to confound us. Just so long as German
justice tries to escape, we keep the right and the duty to denounce what,
;n conscience, we consider a grave violation of justice and of our honor.
NONE MAY VIOLATE JUSTICE.
The Chancellor of the German Empire, in the Reichstag session of
the 4th of August, declared that the invasion of Luxemburg and Belgium
was "in contradiction with the prescriptions of the right of nations"; he
recognized that, "by passing over the justified protests of the Govern-
ments of Luxemburg and Belgium, he was committing an injustice which
he promised to repair" ; and the Sovereign Pontiff, intentionally alluding
to Belgium — as he deigned to cause his Eminence Cardinal Gasparri,
Secretary of State, to write to M. Van den Heuvel, Belgian Minister —
pronounced in his Consistorial Allocution of January 22, 1915, this irre-
formable judgment: "It belongs to the Roman Pontiff, whom God has
established as a supreme interpreter and avenger of the eternal law, to
proclaim, before all else, that none may, for any reason zvhatsoever,
Yet, since that time, politicians and casuists seek to dodge or enfeeble
those decisive words. In their reply to French Catholics, German Catho-
lics engage themselves in like mean subtleties and would feign corroborate
them by a fact. They have at their disposition two witnesses : one — who
Is anonymous — saw, so he says, on the 26th of July, French officers in
conversation with Belgian officers in the Boulevard Anspach at Brussels ;
the other, a certain Gustave Lochard, of Rimogue, deposes that "two
regiments of French dragoons, the Twenty-eighth and the Thirtieth, and
one battery crossed the Belgian frontier on the 31st of July, 1914, and
remained exclusively on Belgian territory during all the following week."
Now, the Belgian Government affirms that, "before the declaration of
war, no French troop, no matter how small, had entered Belgium," And
:t adds: "There is no honest witness who can rise up against this
The Government of our King, therefore, accuses German Catholics
of asserting an error.
Here is a question of prime importance, both political and moral, on
which we ought to enlighten the public conscience.
If, however, you should refuse to examine this general question, we
ask you at least to check off the witness on which German Catholics have
relied to decide the question against us. The deposition of this Gustave
Lochard touches facts easy to verify. German Catholics will wish to
free themselves from the reproach of error and will make it a duty of
conscience to retract the error if they have let themselves be deceived to
NO ESCAPE IS POSSIBLE.
We are not ignorant that you have a repugnance to believe that
regiments of whom, you say, you know the discipline, the honor, the
religious faith, could have given themselves up to the inhuman acts with
which we reproach them. Yoii ivish to persuade yourselves that it is not
so, because it cannot be so.
And, forced by evidence, we answer you — it can be so, because it is so.
In face of the fact, no presumption holds.
For you, as for us, there is but one issue — the verification of the fact
by a commission whose impartiality is and appears to all to be beyond
We have no difficulty in understanding your state of mind.
We, too, respect, believe us, the spirit of discipline and labor and faith
of which we have so often had proofs and gathered testimony among
your fellow countrymen. Very numerous are those Belgians now who
bitterly confess their deception. But they have lived through the sinister
events of August and September. The truth has triumphed over all
interior resistance. The fact can no longer be denied — Belgium has been
made a martyr.
When foreigners of neutral countries — Americans, Hollanders, Swiss,
Spanish — ask us of the way in which the German war has been carried
on, and wish us to narrate certain scenes whose horror, in spite of our-
selves, we have verified, we soften the impression, feeling how far the
naked truth passes limits of probability.
Nevertheless, when you have been placed in the presence of the entire
reality, when you have been able to analyze the causes, some distant,
others immediate, of what one of your generals — before the ruins of the
little village of Schaffenlez-Diest, and before the martyred parish priest —
called "a tragic error" ; when you hear the influences which your soldiers
underwent at the moment of their entry into Belgium and in the intoxi-
cation of their first successes, the unlikelihood of the truth will appear
to you, as to us, less disconcerting.
WE ARE IMPRISONED AND REDUCED TO SILENCE.
Most of all, Eminences and Venerated Colleagues, let not yourselves
be held back by the vain pretext that an investigation v^rould be now
We might say so, indeed, because at the present hour the investigation
would have to be made in circumstances unfavorable to ourselves. Our
populations, in fact, have been so profoundly terrorized, and the prospect
of reprisals is still so sombre for them, that the witnesses we may call
before a tribunal which would be German in part would scarcely dare to
tell the truth to the end.
But decisive reasons are opposed to all dilatory procedure.
The first, that which will go straight to your hearts, is the fact that
we are the weak and you the powerful. You would not wish to abuse
of your strength against us.
Public opinion usually goes to him who first possesses himself of it.
Now, whereas you have all liberty to flood neutral countries with your
publications, we are imprisoned and reduced to silence. Hardly are we
permitted to lift up our voices inside our churches; the preaching in them
is under control, that is, parodied by paid spies; protestations of conscience
are qualified as revolts against public authorities ; what we write is stopped
at the frontier as contraband. So you alone enjoy freedom of speech, and
of the pen, and if you will, in a spirit of charity and equity, procure a
particle of it for Belgians who are accused and give them a chance to
defend themselves, it is for you to come to their protection as soon as
possible. The old law adage — Audiatur et altera pars ("Let the other side
be heard") — is posted up, they tell us, at the doors of many German
courts of law. In any case, for you as for us, it is law for the judgments of
episcopal officialities, and doubtless, too, with you as with us, it circulates
in the people's speech under this figure — "Who hears but one bell hears
but one sound."
You will say, perhaps: "That is the past; forget it. Instead of casting
oil on the fire, try rather to pardon and join your efforts with those of
the Power occupying your territory — for it only asks to heal the wounds
of the unhappy Belgian people."
CAN BELGIUM BE ASKED TO RESIGN HERSELF AND FORGET?
Oh, Eminences and dear colleagues, add not irony to injustice.
Have not we sufifered enough ? Have we not been — are we not still —
tortured cruelly enough?
It is the past; resign yourselves — forget.
The past! But all the wounds are still bleeding! There is not an
honest heart that is not swollen with indignation. While we hear our
own Government saying to the face of the world, "That one is twice guilty
who, after violating another's rights, tries still, audaciously and cynically,
to justify himself by imputing to his victim faults which he had never
committed," our own people can only by doing violence to themselves stifle
words of malediction. But yesterday a peasant in the neighborhood of
Malines learned that his son had fallen on the field of battle. A priest
consoled him. And the brave man answered : "Oh, for this one, I gave
him to our country. But they took my eldest son, the cowards, and shot
him down in a ditch !"
How do you wish us to obtain from such unfortunates, who have been
made to know every torture, a sincere word of resignation and forgive-
ness, so long as those who have made them suffer refuse them one word
of acknowledgment or repentance or promise of reparation?
Germany will not give us back the blood she has made to flow and the
innocent lives her armies have mowed down — but it is in her power to
make restitution to the Belgian people of their honor, which she has
violated or let be violated.
This restitution we demand from you — from you who are the first and
chief representatives of Christian morals in the church of Germany.
There is something more profoundly sad than political divisions and
material disaster — it is the hatred which injustice, real or presumed, heaps
up in so many hearts made to love each other. As pastors of our peoples,
does it not belong to us, is there not incumbent on us, the mission to make
easy the dying away of evil feeling and to re-establish on the foundation
so shaken now of justice, a union in charity of all children of the great
The Power that occupies our territory says and writes, indeed, its
intention of healing our wounds.
But those who judge from man's exterior must judge the intention by
GERMANY IS STILL CONSTANTLY VIOLATING INTERNATIONAL
LAW IN BELGIUM.
Now, all that we know — we poor Belgians who are undergoing for
the passing time the Empire's domination — is that the power which
engaged its honor to govern us according to international law as codified
in the Hague Convention is not keeping faith with its engagement.
We do not speak of individual abuses against citizens in particular,
or against communes, abuses whose character can be established
only by investigation from both sides after the war; we speak, here and
now, only of acts of Government as they are made known by official
documents emanating from Government and posted up on the walls of
our cities and, consequently, engaging beyond all possible discussion the
responsibility of Government.
Now, the violations of the Hague Convention, ever since the date
when our provinces were occupied, are numerous and flagrant. We
classify them here under a few heads, and give in an appendix the proofs
of our allegations. The following are the chief heads of violation :
Collective punishments decreed on account of individual deeds, con-
trary to article 50 of the Hague Convention.
Forced labor for the enemy, contrary to article 52.
New taxes, in violation of articles 48, 49, and 52.
Abuses of requisitions in kind, violating article 52.
Ignoring of laws in force in Belgium, contrary to article 43.
These violations of international law, aggravating our unhappy lot
and accumulating in hearts habitually peaceful and charitable the seeds
of revolt and hatred, would not be carried on did not those who commit
them feel themselves supported, if not by the positive approbation, at
least by the complaisant silence of all those zvho form opinion in their
Confidently, then, we take up our appeal to your chanty ; we are the
weak, you are the strong; come and judge if it is still allowable for you
not to aid us.
WHAT RELIGIOUS INTERESTS DEMAND.
There are, moreover, for the constitution of a Commission of Inves-
tigation by members of the Catholic episcopate, reasons of a general
We have already insisted on the unsettling spectacle which our
divisions are giving to the world — it is an occasion of scandal and awakens
thoughts of blasphemy.
Our populations do not understand how you can be ignorant of the
double flagrant iniquity which has swooped down on Belgium — the
violation of our neutrality and the inhuman conduct of your soldiers —
and why, knowing it, you do not lift up your voices to condemn and to
clear yourselves of siding with it.
On the other hand, what ought to scandalize your own populations,
Protestant and Catholic, is the role attributed by your press to the Belgian
clergy and to a nation over which, for thirty years, a notoriously Catholic
government has been presiding. "Beware," said the Bishop of Hildes-
lieim to his clergy on the 21st of September, 1914, "these charges which
the press is circulating against priests and monks and members of relig-
ious communities of Catholic nations are digging a pit between Catholics
and Protestants on German soil and the religious future of the Empire
is put at stake." The campaign of calumnies against our clergy and our
people has not slackened. Deputy of the Centre Erzberger seems to have
taken for his part to foment it. Even in Belgium, in the Antwerp Cathe-
dral on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, one of your priests, Heinrich
Mohr, dared to say from the chair of truth to the Catholic soldiers of your
army: "Official documents have informed us how Belgians have hanged
German soldiers to trees, have poured boiling liquids over them, have
burned them alive."
There is but one way to put a stop to these scandals, which is the
bringing to the light of day the full truth, and the public condemnation,
by the religious authority, of the truly guilty ones.
For honest men, believers or unbelievers, another subject of scandal
is the craze to put forward a calculation of the advantages and disadvan-
tages which Catholic interests would have from the success either of the
Triple Alliance or the Quadruple Entente. Professor Schrors, of the
University of Bonn, was the first, so far as we know, to give up his
leisure to such vexatious calculation. (Der Krieg und der Katholismus,
von Dr. Heinrich Schrors, prof. d. Katholischen Theologie an der Uni-
versitat in Bonn.)
The religious results of the war are God's secret, and no one of us
is in the Divine confidence.
But there is a question which dominates all that — a question of morals,
of right, and of honor,
"Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and
all these things shall be added unto you."
Do your duty, no matter what may be the result.
THE SUPREME DUTY OF BISHOPS.
Therefore, we bishops, at the present hour, have a moral and, conse-
quently, a religious duty which takes precedence of all others — to seek
and to proclaim the truth.
Christ, of whom it is our great honor to be at once the disciples and
the ministers, has said — has He not? — that His social mission is to bear
witness to the truth : "For this was I born, for this came I into the world;
that I should give testimony to the truth."
In the solemn days of our consecration as bishops, we promised God
and the Catholic Church never to be deserters of the truth, not to give
It up for ambition or fear when there should be question of proving that
we love the. truth.
We, therefore, by our vocation, have an ofiice and a ground of under-
standing in common. Confusion reigns in minds ; what one calls light
another calls darkness ; what is good to some is evil to others. The
tribunal for the investigation of both sides, to which we have the honor
of inviting your delegates, will help, such is the hope we nourish, to
dissipate more than one doubt.
With all the ardor of his will, our Holy Father the Pope makes an
appeal for peace ; in the letter which he vouchsafed to address you at
your last meeting in Fukla, he urged all of you to desire peace as he
does. But he wishes it only when based on the respect of right and
the dignity of peoples — quae jiistitiae sit opus et popiilonim congruat
Therefore, it will be in answer to the will of our common father that
we should work together to make to shine and to triumph the truth, on
which must rest justice and the honor of nations, and, finally, peace.
Receive, Eminences and Venerated Colleagues, the expression of our
respectful and fraternal devotion.
(Signed) D. J. Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines.
Anthony, Bishop of Ghent.
GusTAVE, J., Bishop of Bruges.
Thomas Louis, Bishop of Namur.
Martin Hubert, Bishop of Liege.
Amedee Crooy, appointed Bishop of Tournai.
LETTER ADDRESSED BY HIS LORDSHIP THE BISHOP OF
LIEGE TO COMMANDING OFFICER BAYER, GOVER-
NOR OF LIEGE, ON AUGUST 18, 1914:
I appeal to you as a man and as a Christian to put a stop to executions and
reprisals. I am told repeatedly that several villages have been destroyed, that
prominent people, among whom parish priests, have been shot and others arrested
and all of whom have protested their innocence. Priests hke those of my diocese,
I cannot believe would be guilty of a single act of hostility toward the German
soldiers. I visited many ambulances and I saw that the wounded Germans were
treated with the same care as the Belgians. They themselves recognized this fact.
If the soldiers of the Belgian army, stationed at the outposts, fired upon the
Germans as they entered Belgium, can this be imputed as a crime to the civil popu-
lation? And even if. some civilians helped the soldiers to repulse the German
scouts, is the entire population, the women, the children and the priests to be held
responsible? But I do not wish to discuss that which has passed, I ask you only,
in the name of humanity and in God's name, to prevent the reprisals on inoffensive
inhabitants. These reprisals can have no beneficial results, but will only drive the
people to desperation.
I would be glad to discuss this matter with you, as I feel confident that you, like
myself, wish to allay the evils of the war instead of aggravating them.
At the last moment I learn that the Cure of R has been arrested and
taken to Chartreuse. I do not know of what he is accused, but I know that he is
incapable of committing an act of hostility toward your soldiers ; he is a good
priest, gentle and charitable. I hold myself responsible for him and I beseech you
to have him returned to his parish.
Please accept, etc.,
(Signed) M. H. Rutten, Bishop of Liege.
This letter remained unanswered, but the sanie protestations were
renewed the 21st of August to General Kolowe, who had since been
made Military Governor of Liege.
The same protestations, vigorously expounded and strongly empha-
sized, were renewed in an interview with the Governor-General of
occupied Belgium, Mr. Von der Goltz-Pacha, then quartered at the
episcopal palace with his staff officers, August 29.
This annex contains :
1st. A letter from His Eminence Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of
Mechlin, to the Kreischef of Division of Mechlin, dated January 24, 1915.
2nd. A communication from His Eminence the Cardinal of MechHn,
transmitted to the General Government through the intermediary of
Adjutant von Flemming, dated February 10, 1915.
3rd. A letter from His Lordship the Bishop of Namur to the Mili-
tary Governor of Namur, dated April 12, 1915.
4th. A note relative to a partial investigation made by an Austrian
priest, deputy of the "Wiener Priester Verein."
5th. The correspondence of the Cardinal of Mechlin with His
Excellency the German Governor General regarding abuses suffered
6th. In his Pastoral Letter of Christmas, 1914, the Cardinal of
Mechlin published the names of the innocent priests who were put to
death by the German troops.
The Count of Wengersky, Kreischef of Division of Mechlin, wrote
the following letter to the Cardinal on January 20th :
Chief of the District of Mechlin, January 20, 1915. Tgb. No. 268/11.
To His Eminence the Cardinal- Archbishop of Mechlin:
According to the press, many innocent priests in the diocese of Mechlin were
put to death. In order to institute an investigation, I beg Your Eminence to let me
know if innocent priests of the diocese of Mechlin were killed, and who they were.
I would like very much to know also under what conditions they were put to
death, and by what troops and on what dates.
Chief of District,
(S.) Wengersky, Colonel.
The Cardinal answered the Count von Wengersky as follows:
Archbishopric of Mechlin, January 24, 1915.
I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter 268/11, dated January
20th, which you were kind enough to send me.
The names of the priests and the religious of the diocese of Mechlin who, to
my knowledge, were put to death by the German troops are as follows : Dupierreux
of the Society of Jesus ; Brother Sebastian Allard, of the Congregation of the
Josephites ; Brother Candide, of the Congregation of the Brothers of N. D. de
Misericorde; Father Vincent of the Conventuals; Carette, professor; Lombaerts,
Goris, De Clerck, Dergent, Wouters, Van Wouters, Van Bladel, rectors.
On Christmas I still did not know for a certainty what the lot of the rector of
Herent was. Since then his body has been found at Louvain and identified. Other
figures cited in my Pastoral must to-day be increased : for instance for Aerschot I
gave the number of victims as 91, while the number of bodies of the inhabitants
of Aerschot exhumed, reached a few days ago the total of 143. But the moment
has not come to dwell upon these particular cases. They will find place in the
inquiry which you have given me reason to expect.
It will be a consolation for me to see full light thrown on the events which I
had to record in my Pastoral Letter and on others of the same nature.
But it is essential that the results of this inquiry appear to all as being un-
To this end, I have the honor to propose to you. Monsieur le Comte, and to pro-
pose by your kind intervention, to the German Authorities, that the Commission on
Inquiry be composed of an equal number of German delegates and Belgian magis-
trates to be named by our Magistracy, and to be presided over by a representative
of a neutral country. I believe that His Excellency the Minister from the United
States will not refuse to accept this presidency or to confide it to a delegate of his
Accept, I beg of you, Monsieur le Kreischef, the assurance of my high con-
(S.) D. J. Card. Mercier, Arch, of Mechlin.
To the Count von Wengersky, Kreischef, Mechlin.
This request remained unanswered.
2. On February 10th, Adjutant von Flemming presented himself,
in the name of the Kreischef, to the Archbishopric of Mechlin, regarding
the renewing of the questionnaire to which the latter already answered
in his letter of January 24th. The Cardinal pointed out to the Adjutant
that questions of this nature should be formulated and answered in
writing. Consequently he worded, in the following terms, the requests
of the Kreischef and the answers they required, and the document was
signed afterwards by the Adjutant and by the Cardinal of Mechlin.
ARCHBISHOPRIC OF MECHLIN,
Adjutant von Flemming asks me in the name of the General Government:
1. In which communes were priests shot?
2. What troops put them to death and on what day?
3. Does the Bishop of the diocese contend that these priests were innocent?
1. The names of these communes have already been published in my pastoral
letter of Christmas, 1914, on page 65.
2. The German staff is in a position to know better than anybody else which
troops occupied such and such a commune on such and such a date. The inhabitants
readily recognize the German uniform, but cannot for the most part discern of
which regiments the army is composed.
3. My personal and substantiated conviction is that the priests whose names
I cited were innocent; but in justice it is not for us to prove their innocence; it is
the military authorities who treated them with such severity who should establish
The witnesses called to give testimony in the presence of a unilateral commis-
sion, will for the most part, be afraid to tell the whole truth. The truth will not
be fully known and will not universally force acceptance unless on condition that a
mixed commission be formed to receive it and to guarantee its impartiality and its
So 1 can only renew for the third time (1) my proposition to confide to a mixed
commission, composed partly of Belgian magistrates, the task of throwing light on
these facts regarding which the General Government has the happy inspiration to
institute an inquiry. In order to give the desired authority to the results of the
inquiry, it is necessary that the Court of Inquiry be presided over by a delegate of
a neutral country.
Made at Mechlin, the 10th of February, 1915.
(S.) D. J. Card. Mercier, Arch, of Mechlin.
(S.) voN Flemming, Ritmeister and Adjutant of the Krieschefs of Mechlin.
*(1) The proposition was formulated a first time, in writing, Jan. 24th, and
taken up again orally February 8th, by Mgr. Van Roey Vicar General, who was
ordered to come to the Kommandantur of Mechlin.
This request remained unanswered.
3. On the occasion of the pubHcation of a confidential letter from
the Cabinet of the Minister of War of Prussia to the Grand Chancellor,
His Lordship the Bishop of Namur published, the 12th of April, 1915,
an answer to this document.
While the Military Governor of Namur contested — without speci-
fying anything, however — the affirmations contained in the answer of
the bishop, the latter maintained his affirmations and added : "On
account of the difference of opinion which separates us, there remains
only one way to make clear to everybody the facts in the case. That
is to confide the investigation to a commission of inquiry which I pro-
posed. I am confident that Your Excellency will join forces with me
and will recommend the project to the Governor-General.
(S) T. L., Bishop of Namur."
The proposition of His Lordship the Bishop of Namur remained
4. A priest accredited by H. E. Cardinal Piffi, Archbishop-Prince of
Vienna, made an inquiry in Belgium in the name of "Wiener Priester
The results of this partial inquiry were published in the "Tijd" of
Amsterdam and in the "Politiken" of Copenhagen. They proved a
crushing blow to the German military authorities. But if we are rightly
informed, the German and Austrian newspapers omitted to bring this
to the knowledge of their readers.
5. Before bringing this annex relative to the inquiries to a close, we
have to make a correction:
In their answer to the French CathoHcs, the German Catholics speak
of attacks on nuns, and write: "The German Governor-General in
Belgium addressed himself on this subject to the Belgian Bishops. . . .
The Archbishop of Mechlin made known that he could furnish no exact
information on any case of violation of a nun in his diocese."
This last sentence is materially correct, but would lead into error
the inattentive reader. I wrote, in fact, to the Governor-General that
I could not furnish any exact information, because my conscience forbade
me to give to no matter what court the information, alas, very exact,
which I possess. Attacks on nuns were made. Happily, I believe, not
a great many, but there were several to my knowledge.
Since the Governor-General deemed proper to give to the public an
extract of the letter which I had the honor to address to him on this
delicate subject, it is my duty to reproduce here the entire text of our
Here is the translation of the letter which the Governor-General
wrote to me on March 30th, 1915:
The Governor General, in Belgium.
Brussels, March 30, 1915.
The foreign press, in addition to a series of other accusations, the greater part
of which have already been proven false, launched this grave accusation that the
German soldiers during their march through Belgium did not shrink from attacks
on Belgian nuns.
It is not necessary to point out that such facts, had they been recognized as true,
would have been severely condemned by the General Government and the German
Government. On the other hand, justice exacts that accusations recognized as
inexact should be spurned as they deserve.
I dare hope that the discovery of the real truth responds as well to the senti-
ments of the Catholic Church as to the interests of Justice, and I believe I can
depend on the support of Y. E. when I beg you to assist me in my efforts to
elucidate these facts.
The documents that Y. E. may communicate concerning alleged attacks on nuns
will put me in a position to take such steps that the situation demands.
Begging you to accept the expression of my highest consideration, I have the
honor to be Your Eminence's very respectful,
(S.) Baron von Bissing,
To H. E. the Archbishop of Mechlin, at Mechlin.
Here is our answer:
ARCHBISHOPRIC OF MECHLIN
Monsieur the Governor General,
I received letter No. 1243 which your Excellency did me the honor to write
to me, and I regret having been prevented answering sooner.
Rumors are circulated in fact which are accepted by certain newspapers, and
denied by others, regarding outrages which Belgian nuns suffered at the hands of
German soldiers, and in accordance with Your Excellency, I protest against those
who lightly, without proof, cast before the public or entertain such odious accusa-
But when Your Excellency asks me to help to throw light on the truth or
untruth of these imputations, I find myself compelled to oppose a preliminary
Have the civil authorities the right to institute an inquiry regarding matters of
so delicate a nature ?
Whom will they questtion?
The Confessor? The Physician? They are bound by professional secrecy.
The Superiors? Do they always know the truth?
And if they know it as a result of being told under the seal of a secret, have
they the right to speak?
Will they dare to question those interested? Would it not be cruel? Will they
try to make witnesses speak, at the risk of exposing these victims of violence,
already so unfortunate, to bear before the public the stain of their dishonor?
For myself, I would not dare to submit anybody to an examination on so
delicate a subject, and the disclosures which have been made to me spontaneously,
or which will be made to me, in this regard, my conscience forbids me to make
known to any one.
Our duty, Excellency, is to prevent, by the means in our power that the public
gratifies itself with these capricious and unhealthful allegations, and I will com-
mend with all my heart the repression which justice will exercise on those, who,
on account of prejudice or unpardonable thoughtlessness, invent or spread them.
But I believe that we cannot go any further without encroaching on the rights of
conscience and exposing ourselves to violate the liberty of private conscience.
Accept, Monsieur le Gouverneur-General, the renewed assurance of my very
(S.) D. J. Card. Mercier, Archbishop of Mechlin.
To His Excellency, Monsieur le Baron, von Bissing, Governor General, Brussels.
We know and we affirm that the German army gave itself up in
Belgium in a hundred different quarters, to pillage, to incendiarisrn, and
imprisonments, and to massacres, and sacrileges, contrary to all justice
and all human sentiment.
1. DIOCESE OF NAMUR: PROVINCES OF NAMUR AND OF LUXEM-
Tamines, Surice, Spontin, Namur, Ethe Gomery, Latour, Aische-en-Refail, AUe,
Arsimont, Auvelais, Bounine, Bourseigne-Neuve, Bouge, Daussois, Dourbes, Erme-
ton-sur-Biert, Evrehailles, Felenne, Fosses, Franchimont, Franc Waret, Frasne,
Gedinne, Gelbressee, Hansinelle, Hanzinne, Hautbois, Hastiere, Hermeton-sur-
Meuse, Hingeon, Houdremont, Jemeppe-sur-Sambre, Lisogne, Louette St-Pierre,
Mariembourg, Mettet, Monceau, Morville, Onhaye, Oret, Petigny, Romedenne.
Somme-Leuze, Somzee, Stave, Temploux, Villers-en-Fagne, Wartet, Waulsort,
Willerzie, Yvoir, Anloy, Assenois, Glaumont, Baranzy, Betrix, Briscol, Etalle,
Framont, Frenes-Opont, Freylange, Glaireuse, Hamipre, Herbeumont, Izel,
Jehouville, Maissin, Manhay, Musson, Mussy-la-Ville, Neufchateau, Pin, St. Leger,
Thibessart, Biesme, Porcheresse, Graide, Nothomb, Rulles, Rosiere-la-Grande,
Bovigny, Gouvy, Champion, Jamoigne, Silenrieux, Les Bulles, Tintigny, Ansart
Rossignol, Sorinne, Bievre, Beheme, Leglise, Laneffe, Frenois, Villers-devant-Oryal,
Couvin, Houdemont, Chiny, Anthee, Ychippe, Conneux Aye, Evelette, Florenville,
Hollogne, Le Roux, Leuze, Marche, St. Marie, Ste.-Vincent.
2. DIOCESE OF LIEGE: PROVINCES OF LIEGE AND OF LIMBURG:
Battice, Herve, Vise, Mouland, Hermee, Allambray, Louvignee, Lince, Poulsart,
Sommague, Pecher, Melin, Julimont, Barchon, Lummen, Heulen, Geseele,
3. DIOCESE OF MECHLIN: PROVINCES OF BRABANT AND OF
Haakendover, Autgaerden, Grimde, Hougaerde, Cumptich, Hauthem, Ste. Mar-
guerite Vissenaeken, Bunsbeek, Lubbeek, St. Bernard, Wever, Attenrode, Cappellen
(.Glabb'eek), Cortryck-Dutsel, Glabbeek, Pellenberg, Neerlinter, Budingen, Heelen-
bosch Orsmael-Gussenhoven, Corbeek-Ioo, Lovenjoul, Roosbeek, Schaffen, Moleln-
stede, Wersbeek, Aerschot, Rillaer, Gelrode, Wesemael, Hersselt, Rethy, Haecht,
Rotselaer Wackerzeel, Werchter, Tremeloo, Thildonck, Wespelaer,Boortmeerbeeck,
Rymenam, Hever, Louvain, Heverle, Herent, Berg, Campenhout, Bueken, Neder-
ockerzeel, Cortenberg, Delle, Boisschot, Goor, Heyst-op-den-Berg, Beersel, Putte,
Schrieck, Malines, Bonheyden, Wavre-Notre-Dame, Wavre Ste. Catherme, Wael-
hem, Leest, Hombeek, Sempst, Laer, Hofstade, Muysen, Schiplaeken, Koningshoyckt,
Kessel, Lierre, Duffel, Blaesvelt, Perck, Peuthy, Hauthem, Elewijt, Weerde, Eppeg-
hem, Pont-Brule, Grimbergen, Londerzeel, Meysse, Humbeek, Nieuwenrode, Beyg-
hem, Wolverthem, Cappelle-au-Bois, Linsmeau, Wavre, Mousty.
4. DIOCESE OF GHENT: EAST FLANDERS:
Saint-Gilles, Lebbeke, Termonde.
5. DIOCESE OF TOURNAI: PROVINCE OF HAINAUT:
VIOLATION OF THE CONVENTION OF THE HAGUE.
Germany signed the Convention of The Hague.
Already the first German Governor General, M. le Baron von der
Goltz, invoked the Convention of The Hague in a decree published by
him November 12, 1914.
The second German Governor General, Baron von Bissing, in a
solemn proclamation published July 18th, 1915, declared himself
''DESIROUS OF GOVERNING BELGIUM ACCORDING TO THE
CONVENTION OF THE HAGUE, CONCERNING THE LAWS
AND THE CUSTOMS OF THE WAR ON LAND. . . ." He added:
"HIS MAJESTY THE GERMAN EMPEROR, after the occupation
of the Kingdom of Belgium by our victorious troops confided to me the
administration of the country, and CHARGED ME TO FULFIL THE
OBLIGATIONS RESULTING FROM THE CONVENTION OF
This is the law.
Here are the facts:
1. THE COLLECTIVE PENALTIES.
Article 50 of the Convention stipulates : "No collective penalty,
pecuniary or other, can be pronounced against the inhabitants, on account
of individual facts, of which they cannot be considered as jointly
Now, the history of the occupation comprises three periods: that of
the invasion, those over which presided successively, Baron von der Goltz
and Baron von Bissing,
DURING THE PERIOD OF INVASION, the collective penalty
was applied systematically and under all forms. Proofs of this asser-
tion abound. Here is one in itself sufficient:
Accordingly as the invasion gained ground the Commander in Chief
of the army had posted up in three languages, on red paper, a procla-
mation which read :
Villages where acts of hostility will be committed by the inhabitants
against our troops, WILL BE BURNED.
WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE for all destruction of routes,
railroads, bridges, etc. . . . THE VILLAGES IN THE NEIGHBOR-
HOOD of the points of destruction.
The penalties mentioned above will be executed with severity and
without mercy. THE ENTIRE POPULATION WILL BE HELD
RESPONSIBLE. Hostages will be taken in numbers. The heaviest
war tax will be imposed.
UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF MARECHAL VON DER
GOLTZ, a proclamation signed by the hand of the Governor General,
and promulgated the 2nd of September, 1914, in the occupied territory,
said expressly: "It is the hard necessity of war that the penalties for
hostile acts affect, BESIDES THE GUILTY ONES, also THE
Consequently, the collective penalties were applied without restriction.
Thus, a typical example, the City of Brussels was condemned to pay
5 millions as fine, because one of its policemen, unknown to the Com-
munal administration, omitted to pay deference to an official of the
German civil government.
A notice signed Baron von der Goltz, posted up the 7th of
October, 1914, applies the collective penalty to the family. It says:
"The Belgian Government sent to militiamen of different classes, orders
to rejoin the army. . . . All who receive these orders are strictly for-
bidden to obey them. ... IN CASE OF INFRINGEMENT THE
FAMILY OF THE MILITIAMAN WILL BE HELD EQUALLY
RESPONSIBLE." UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF GENERAL
VON BISSING, that is to say, from the third of December, 1914, the
collective PUNISHMENTS, in violation of Article 50, were continuous.
Here are some samples :
The 23rd of September, 1914, a notice posted up in Brussels read :
"If the graves of fallen soldiers are damaged or violated, not only will
the one who committed the deed be punished, but THE TOWN WILL
BE HELD RESPONSIBLE."
A notice from the Governor General, dated January 26, 1915, makes
the MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY RESPONSIBLE for the fact that
a Belgian, eligible for military service, of from 16 to 40 years of age,
passes into Holland.
And in fact under the most trifling pretext, heavy fines are imposed
on the townships : the township of Puers has to pay a fine of three
thousand marks because the telegraph wire was broken, although it was
established after inquiry that usage had caused it to break.
Mechlin, an industrial city, without resources, sees itself obliged to
pay a fine of twenty thousand marks because the Burgomaster did not
inform the military authorities of a trip that the Cardinal, who had been
deprived of his automobile, was obliged to make on foot.
2. FORCED LABOR FOR THE ENEMY.
According to article 52 of the Convention, requisitions in kind and
services cannot be demanded from the communes or from the inhabitants
except on three conditions :
On condition that they do not comprise for the inhabitants the obli-
gation to take part in operations of war against their country.
On condition that they only concern the needs of the occupying army.
On condition that they are in accordance with the resources of those
of whom they are asked.
It is interesting to note that Article 23 contains a closing item which
was proposed to the second Congress of The Hague in 1907 by the
German delegation; here it is: It is forbidden for a belligerent to force
the people of the other side to take part in operations of war directed
against their country.
1. DURING THE INVASION, Belgian civilians, in numberless
places, were forced to take part in war operations against their own
country, at Termonde, at Lebbeke, at Dinant, and elsewhere; in many
places PEACEABLE CITIZENS, WOMEN AND CHILDREN
WERE FORCED TO MARCH AT THE HEAD OF GERMAN
REGIMENTS or to form a curtain in front of them.
At Liege and at Namur, civilians were forced to dig trenches and
were employed to repair fortifications. The regime of hostages reigned
frantically. The proclamation of the 4th of August cited above said it
plainly: "HOSTAGES WILL BE TAKEN IN GREAT NUMBERS."
An official proclamation posted up in Liege in the first days of
August, read :
"All aggressions committed against the German troops by others than
soldiers in uniform, expose not only him who renders himself guilty
to be immediately executed, but will also cause the most violent reprisals
against all the inhabitants, and especially against the people of Liege who
are held as HOSTAGES in the citadel of Liege by the Commander of
the German troops."
These hostages are Mgr. Rutten, Bishop of Liege; Mr. Klever,
Burgomaster of Liege ; the senators, representatives, permanent deputies,,
aldermen of Liege.
2. UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF FIELD MARSHALL
VON DER GOLTZ, the requisitions of service practised during the
month of August, were continued under all forms : digging of trenches,
work on the fortifications, carting, work on the roads, on the bridges, on
the railroads, etc.
A decree of the Governor-General appeared the 19th of November,
saying: "Will be punished with imprisonment — of which the decree
does not even give the duration : it is arbitrary without reserve — no
matter who will attempt to prevent by force, by threats, by persuasion,
or by other means, the execution of a work destined to the German
authorities, persons disposed to furnish this work or contractors charged
by the German authorities with the execution of this work."
As regards THE REGIME OF HOSTAGES, it was carried out in
all its rigor.
A monstrous specimen of arbitrary cruelty is the proclamation pla-
carded in the communes of Beyne-Heusay, Grivegnee, Bois de Breux, by
Major Dieckmann, September 8th, 1914. Here is an extract:
"From the 7th of September, I will permit the people of the aforesaid
communes to go into their homes. To assure against abuse of this per-
mission, the burgomasters of Beyne-Heusay and of Grivegnee must make
lists immediately of people who will be held as 'hostages' in the fort of
"The lives of these hostages depend upon the peaceable behavior of
the inhabitants of these communes."
I will designate the people who are to be held from noon one day to
noon the next as hostages. If the substitution is not made in time, the
hostage will have to remain for another 24 hours in the fort. After the
expiration of these extra 24 hours, "the hostage is subject to the death
penalty if the substitution is not made." As hostages, the priests and
the burgomasters and the other members of the administration are placed
in the first line.
3. UNDER THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE BARON VON
BISSING, the violations of Article 52 were flagrant. Things that took
place in the railroad shops at Luttre and at Mechlin, as well as in many
towns of West Flanders, are revolting. Let us judge for ourselves:
At the Arsenal of Luttre the German official had posted up on March
23, 1915, a notice ordering the taking up again of work. The 21st of
April they demanded 200 workmen. The 27th of April soldiers went
to summon workmen at their homes and conducted them to the arsenal.
In case the workman was absent, a member of the family was arrested.
Meanwhile the workmen remained firm in their refusal to work, "because
they did not want to co-operate in acts of war against their country."
The 30th of April the workmen summoned were no longer released,
but locked up in railroad trains.
The 4th of May 24 workmen imprisoned at Nivelles, were judged at
Mons by a counsel of war, "under the accusation of being a member of
a secret society the aim of which was to thwart the carrying out of Ger-
man military measures." They are condemned to imprisonment.
The 8th of May, 1915, 49 workmen are locked up in a freight car and
sent to Germany.
May 14th, 45 workmen are deported to Germany.
May 18th a new proclamation announces that the prisoners will receive
only dry bread and water; hot food only every four days. May 22nd
"three cars carrying 104 workmen are sent towards Charleroi."
Notwithstanding everything the patriotic dignity of the workmen
finally triumphed over the pressure exercised over them.
It was the same at MECHLIN, where by diverse means of intimi-
dation the German authorities tried to compel the workmen at the rail-
road shops to work on material for the railroad, just as if it were not
evident that this material would sooner or later become war material.
May 30, 1915, the Governor-General published "that he would be
obliged to punish the city of Mechlin and its environs in stopping all
business traffic if on Wednesday, June 2nd, at 10 o'clock in the morning,
500 workmen of the arsenal did not present themselves for work."
On Wednesday, June 2nd, not one workman presented himself for
work. Hence a decree forbidding any vehicles to pass within a radius
of many kilometres around the city.
It was at this time that the Cardinal of Mechlin made his trip on
foot from Mechlin to Eppeghem; a trip which caused the city of Mechlin
to pay a fine of 20,000 marks.
Many workmen were taken by force and held during two or three
days at the shops.
The suspension of traffic lasted ten days.
The Commune of SWEVEGHEM (West Flanders) was punished
in June, 1915, because the 350 workmen of the factory — private factory
of Mr, Bekaert — refused to manufacture barbed wire for the German
Here is a bill which was posted up in July-August, 1915, at MENIN;
Order: Dating from to-day the city can no longer give help — no matter
of what kind, even to families, women and children — except only to those
workmen who work "regularly" on "military jobs" and other prescribed
work. All other workmen and their families can no longer be helped
in any way.
Is this not too odious?
Similar measures were taken in October, 1915, at Harlebeke-Coutrai,
at Bisseghem, at Lokeren, at Mons. At Harlebeke 29 inhabitants were
deported to Germany. At Mons, at the factory of Mr. Lenoir, the
directors, foremen, and 81 workmen were condemned to imprisonment
for refusing to work for the German army: Mr. Lenoir got 5 years'
imprisonment, 5 directors got one year, six foremen got 6 months ; 81
workmen 8 weeks.
The General Government had recourse also to "indirect" means of
coercion. It took possession of the Red Cross of Belgium, confiscated
their funds, and arbitrarily changed its purpose. It tried to get posses-
sion of the public charity organization and to exercise its control on the
National Committee of Help and Food. If we cited in extenso the decree
of the Governor-General of May 14th, 1915, "concerning the measures
destined to assure the execution of works of public interest," and that
of August 15, 1915, "concerning the strikers who through laziness avoid
work," we would see by what detours the occupying power tried to reach
at the same time the employers and the workmen.
But is is in the zone of the "etapes" that disregard for the Convention
of the Hague was pushed to the extreme.
The 12th of Oct., 1915, the Official Bulletin of decrees for the region
of the "Etapes," published a decree, of which below are the salient
Art. 1. He who without motive refuses to undertake or to continue
a work corresponding to his profession and in the execution of which
"the military administration is interested," work ordained by one or
several military commanders, will be punished by reformatory imprison-
ment for one year at the most. He may also be deported to Germany.
"The fact that Belgian laws to the contrary or even international
conventions are invoked can in no case justify a refusal to work."
Regarding the legitimacy of the work exacted, the "Military Com-
mander alone has the right to take a decision."
Art. 2. Is liable to imprisonment of 5 years at the most, he who by
coercion, menace, persuasion or other means, tries to influence another
person to the refusal designated in Art. 1.
Art. 3. He who knowingly by "help or other means" favors the
punishable refusal to work, will be liable to a fine up to 10,000 mks., he
may also be condemned to one year's imprisonment.
If communes or associations render themselves culpable of suv,n a
transgression, the authorities will be punished in consequence.
Art. 4. Independently of the penalties which Articles 1 and 3
threaten, the German authorities can in case of need impose on the com-
munes, where without motive the execution of a work has been refused,
a contribution or other coercive poHce measures.
The present decree goes at once into force.
Ghent, the 12th of October, 1915.
Von Uuger, general leutnant.
The arbitrary injustice of this decree surpasses all that one could
imagine. Forced labor, collective penalties, indeterminate sanctions:
everything is there. It is slavery, neither more nor less.
III. NEW TAXES.
Let us confine ourselves to point out in a few words two taxes con-
trary to articles 48, 49, 51 and 52 of the Convention of the Hague.
THE FIRST was decreed by an order of Governor-General Baron
von Bissing, on Jan. 16th, 1915. It consists in taxing the absent people
with an additional and extraordinary tax fixed at ten times the total of
their personal taxes. This tax is contained in none of the categories of
existing taxes, it only affects one class of citizens who lawfully made use
of their right to move their residence previously to the occupation of
the country. It is consequently contrary to articles 48 and 51 of the
The SECOND violation of the Convention is the famous Contribution
of 480 millions imposed on the nine provinces the 10th of December,
The essential condition of the legitimacy of a tax of this kind, accord-
ing to the Convention of the Hague, is that it be IN KEEPING WITH
THE RESOURCES OF THE COUNTRY. Art. 52.
Now, in December, 1914, Belgium was devastated ; war contributions
imposed on the cities, innumerable requisitions in kind, had exhausted it ;
the greater part of the factories were stopped, and from those who still
worked they did not hesitate to demand, contrary to all law, the raw
It is on this impoverished Belgium, living on foreign charity, that a
tax of about a half million was imposed.
The decree of Dec. 10th, 1914, read: A war contribution of 40
million francs, to be paid monthly during the period of one year, is
imposed on the Belgian population.
This "period of one year has now elapsed" !
Now, at this writing, the occupying power pretends to replace "the
period of one year" by "the entire duration of the war."
Poor little Belgium! What has she done to the rich and powerful
Germany, her neighbor, to be thus trodden down, tortured, calumniated,
bled, oppressed by her?
If we had to furnish a complete statement of the decrees and acts
by which the Occupying Power to our knowledge has gone contrary to
the Convention of the Hague, we would have still to cite "the abuse of
requisitions in kind," contrary to Article 52; "the seizure" of funds be-
longing to private societies, the requisition of railroad rails for a distance
of hundreds of kilometres; the seizure of arms placed by the order of
the Belgian Government in communal houses, an abuse contrary to
"Article 53"; THE REFUSAL to recognize, especially in matters of
penal law LAWS IN FORCE IN THE COUNTRY, contrary to
But we cannot tell everything here, nor cite everything.
If, however, the persons to whom our correspondence is destined
wish proof of the accusations which are only indicated in this final
paragraph, we will furnish it immediately. There is no allegation either
in our Letter or in these four annexes of which we do not possess the
proof in our files.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
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